Moving With Pets

Moving can be one of the most stressful things a person can do. This event can be just as traumatic for your pets. Having a plan for a pet-friendly transition will keep you calm and your pets as comfortable as possible.

Before You Move

Know the pet laws and regulations of the state you are moving to. You can get these from the state's Veterinary Office or Department of Agriculture. (See links at the bottom of this page.) For example, if you own a wolf, monkey, big cat, or any large, exotic animal, you will likely need a special permit.

Next, check with the City Clerk's office in your new town to find out about local ordinances. Leash laws and licensing are common. So are limits on the number of pets per household. Zoning laws may prohibit certain animals, such as goats, pigs and chickens, in residential areas.

If you are moving to an apartment or condo, make sure your pet is allowed before you move in. Many communities do not permit cats, dogs, aquariums and exotic pets (iguanas, venomous snakes, tarantulas, ferrets, etc.).

Get your pet's health records from your veterinarian. The information will help your new veterinarian provide good care. And keep a photograph of your pet, in case the animal gets lost.

Collar and ID Tag. It's a good idea to have a microchip in your pet. If your pet can wear a collar, put one on it and attach an ID tag. (For birds, put the tag on a leg band.) The tag should include the pet's name, your name, and the destination address. Most states require a rabies tag for dogs and cats, and for some exotic animals. Check with your veterinarian or animal-control agency for your state's requirements (see links below).

Health Certificate. Most states require a health certificate for dogs; many states require one for cats and other pets as well. The certificate must be issued by a licensed veterinarian and be no more than 10 days old. Up-to-date inoculation records should accompany it. Check with your veterinarian or animal-control agency for the state's requirements (see links below).

Permit. You may need to purchase a permit before your exotic pet can enter your new home state. Ask your veterinarian to help with the application process.

Video: Moving With Pets 

Which pet transportation method is best?

Do you hire a pet-moving service... or do it yourself? Movers, such as Kings Transfer Van Lines, are not permitted to transport pets. Nor are buses or trains, with the exception of transporting guide dogs. If your pet requires special handling, consider a professional pet service. Your Kings Transfer Account Representative can recommend a reputable provider.

A pet carrier is a "must have."

A portable kennel, or pet carrier, is an essential purchase for pet movers to ensure your pet's safety and comfort. It should be just big enough for your dog or cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Birds need pet carriers, too; conventional cages are insufficient.

Make sure your pet carrier has cross-ventilation and leak-proof bottom. Adding absorbent layers for travel can be a good idea if your pet is accident-prone. Your kennel should also have a secure door latch. But do not lock it; federal regulations require your pet to be accessible in an emergency.

Most airlines offer pet carriers for purchase with at least 48 hours advance notice. Such kennels meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. You may also purchase a kennel at your favorite pet store.

Get your pet accustomed to the carrier before you travel. In the days before you depart, use the carrier as a pet bed. Place a favorite toy or blanket inside to help your pet feel secure.

pets traveling by airlines    Most airlines accept dogs, cats, birds and fish in air freight.

If you plan to travel by air...

Ask about options for pet transportation when you book your flight. Some airlines will allow your pet inside the cabin (first-come, first-served), in an approved container, under the seat. A guide dog, properly harnessed, may sit at your feet.

If you do not accompany your pet, or if your pet is too large to travel in the cabin, it must travel as checked baggage or cargo. Most airlines will allow dogs, cats, birds and fish. However, some may not take venomous snakes or other exotic pets.

You may need to bring your pet to freight loading two hours or more before departure. Write your pet's name on the container and add a note if it is prone to bite. Write FRAGILE: LIVE ANIMAL and THIS SIDE UP clearly on the outside of the container. Always keep the proper documents and a recent photo of your pet handy.

moving fish    Fish should be packed in plastic containers equipped with battery operated aerators and placed in strong boxes.

Tips for transporting fish or turtles.

Pack fish in plastic containers with battery-operated aerators; place the containers inside approved shipping containers. You can transport a turtle easily via overnight mail. Pack it in a styrofoam-cushioned box with air holes and lined with soft grass or leaves. Use a box big enough for your turtle to extend its legs and head. Dampen a cloth and place it inside the container. Write FRAGILE: LIVE ANIMAL and THIS SIDE UP on the box.

Tips for your pet's well-being and comfort during air travel.

Book a direct flight if you can. Multiple flights and plane changes mean more handling and more stress for your pet.

Feed your pet a light meal five to six hours before departure.

Do not give water for two hours before take-off, except on hot days.

Do not feed fish for two or three days before you ship them.

Exercise your pet on a leash at the airport and give it any needed medications.

Place your pet in the carrier, secure the latch, and fasten the leash to the outside of the container.

Pick your pet up from the airport as soon as you can, and within 24 hours of arrival if possible. If you do not, your pet may be shipped back to where it came from. Or, the airline may place it in a kennel at your expense.

Airlines may refuse to transport your pet if...

it is not in a USDA and IATA-approved container

transportation would require more than 24 hours between departure and arrival

the ground temperature is below 45°F or above 85°F at departure or arrival

it has been sedated, and the carrier bears no note of the drug name, dosage, and how it was given

you cannot present proper identification and documents

Pet Transportation by automobile

Car travel is the most popular mode of pet relocation. It provides a feeling of security for your pet and for you. And it is less expensive than air travel. Traveling in a car with your pet can be a pleasant experience when you follow these guidelines.

If your pet is not used to car travel, take it on short rides before the trip. This will accustom it to the motion of the car. If it is prone to motion sickness, ask your vet about pills to lessen the symptoms.

Do not feed or water your dog or cat for a few hours before you leave. After you are on the road, feed once a day only. Make frequent stops for water and exercise. Take a supply of water from home; different water on the road can cause an upset stomach. And keep your pet on a leash for its protection—and yours.

While riding in the car, do not let your pet hang out the window. Dirt and insects can get in its eyes, causing irritation and infection. Keep windows locked to prevent your pet from lowering the window and jumping out. Cats, especially, are known to do this. To avoid these problems altogether, keep your pet in its carrier.

If your car is not equipped with air conditioning, leave the windows cracked between an inch and inch-and-a-half. Pets need plenty of air, especially when the weather is hot, or when the animal is prone to motion sickness.

Small animals, such as gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, are sensitive to heat and cold. Your own comfort is a good guide; if you are hot or cold, chances are your pet is, too.

Do not leave your pet alone in the car. If you must, however, lock the doors. If the weather is warm, crack windows for cross-ventilation and provide water. Check on your pet every few minutes. Even on a cloudy day, extreme heat inside a car can be fatal to your pet in as little as 10 minutes. In winter, a car that isn't running can quickly become like a freezer.

For a bird or other small caged animal, remove dishes of water and food to avoid messy spills while the car is moving. Feed and water these pets at stops along the way. Keep your bird's carrier covered to help calm it. If you transport fish in plastic bags, do not put them in direct sunlight or in cold drafts.

Pet Relocation    For dogs and cats, do not feed or water for a few hours before you leave. After you are on the road, feed only once daily.

Staying overnight with your pet...

Never leave a pet alone in the car overnight. If you anticipate overnight stops, arrange in advance for pet-friendly lodging. An Internet search is the fastest way to locate such places on your route. You might also consult lodging directories in your local library. If you are traveling with a snake, let it soak for about an hour in the bathtub once you have checked in.

If you must leave your pet alone in a motel room, notify the desk and display the Do Not Disturb sign on the door.

Pet checklist for car travel:

  • ample food and fresh water from home
  • a dish for each pet
  • leash and grooming brush
  • medications
  • extra towels and newspaper
  • favorite toy or blanket
  • room deodorizer for hotel

Arriving at your new home...

Like people, pets need a little time to get used to new surroundings. A favorite food bowl, bedding and toys will help it feel at home. If your pet will have free roam in your new home, leave the carrier door open so it may come out when it is ready.

If you need to locate a veterinarian, contact your local Humane Society or the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) (tel. 800-567-2862) for the names of veterinarians in your area.

General Reminders

People moving with pets should keep the pet's routine as regular as possible before and during the move. If you normally feed, exercise, or play with your pet at certain times, continue to do so. During the final days of packing and preparation, consider keeping your pet at a friend's home or kennel. This may help keep it from getting upset and running away – or hiding in a moving box, as cats are prone to do.

If you have questions at any time during your pet's relocation, talk to your Atlas Account Representative. Your Atlas professionals are always ready to help. They want your move to be stress-free—for every member of your family.